Ukraine favourite to win Eurovision Song Contest in war

TURIN, Italy — Against the backdrop of war in Europe, the wildly popular Eurovision Song Contest reached a flamboyant climax on Saturday night, with 25 bands performing in front of a live audience in the northern Italian city of Turin and millions more Watch the world on TV.

Ukrainian band Kalush Orchestra is favored by bookmakers, who have a 60% chance of winning if they combine traditional Ukrainian rhythms, costumes and dance moves with modern hip-hop.

Their song “Stefania” was written as a tribute to the frontman’s mother, but since the Russian invasion of Russia on February 24, as the lyrics have taken on new meaning, it has become a song dedicated to the war-torn National anthem of the country. “I can always find my way home, even if all the roads are destroyed,” wrote Karoosh Orchestra frontman Ole Pushuk.

The six-piece, all-male band has been granted special permission to leave the country to represent Ukraine and Ukrainian culture in music competitions. One of the original members stayed to fight, and the others planned to return immediately after the game.

Winners are chosen equally by a panel of music experts from each participating country and voted on by the audience, leaving room for unhappiness. Britain’s Sam Ryder and Sweden’s Cornelia Jakobs each have a 10% chance, while Italian duo Mahmood & Blanco has a 6% chance of winning.

The winner will receive a glass microphone trophy and a potential career boost.

The event was hosted by Italy after Italian rock band Maneskin won in Rotterdam last year. The victory catapulted the Rome-based band to international fame, opening for the Rolling Stones and appearing on Saturday Night Live and numerous magazine covers under the quintessential gender-neutral clothing code.

This week, 20 bands have been selected in two semi-finals to compete with the Big Five of Italy, England, France, Germany and Spain, which have permanent seats due to financial support for the competition.

Russia was excluded after it invaded Ukraine this year, a move organizers said was aimed at keeping politics out of competition to promote diversity and friendship between nations.

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